Matt Neal chooses Pitt Community
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 8, 2010 11:44 PM
The workout felt good, but Matt Neal savored the phone call. Once the Rosewood standout returned home from a baseball showcase for unsigned seniors at Pitt Community College, the emails and telephone conversations occurred on a regular basis.
The more Neal discovered about the Bulldog program and the more he learned about head coach Tommy Eason, he undoubtedly sensed the perennial junior college powerhouse was the perfect place for him.
Neal signed a national letter-of-intent to play for PCC next spring.
"I like coach Eason a lot," said Neal. "He's a cool guy and he really knows his baseball. I wanted to go to a winning program and I like the way coach Eason runs his program."
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 nationally in the latest Division I JUCO poll, advanced to Saturday's championship game of the Region X tournament. A victory keeps PCC on track to reach the College World Series.
Eason starred at East Carolina and spent several seasons in the minor leagues. His baseball career and knowledge of the game earned respect from Neal, who is being recruited to play a middle-infield position.
That's not much of a change for the four-year varsity performer, who has a 20-10 career record on the mound. Neal plays shortstop for the Eagles when he's not pitching, and he saw considerable time at second base last summer with the Wayne County Post 11 American Legion squad.
"I want to be able to play every day and pitching, you're not able to do that," said Neal. "I think it will benefit me if I go on to play somewhere else because I'll be able to play more as an infielder than a pitcher."
Neal helped lead Rosewood to back-to-back, regular-season championships on the Carolina 1-A Conference scene a year ago and this spring. The Eagles (14-6 overall) capped an unbeaten conference campaign (10-0) with a five-inning victory over archrival Princeton on Friday evening.
Rosewood earned its fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.
Neal summed up his prep career as a "lot of hard work" and "doing what's best for the team." That attitude and strong work regimen will make it difficult to keep him out of the PCC lineup next spring, said second-year Eagles head coach Jason King.
"He'll compete with anybody who is there and they're going to have to find a place to put him, in my opinion," said King. "He has been a blessing for us, not only to have a talented player like him, but because he's also a good worker. Matt is somebody who is very coachable. He is going to listen and apply what he's taught to the best of his ability.
"Another thing is he does what he's supposed to off the field and in the classroom. Junior college is a good step up. You prove you can do the work there and then compete at the next level."
In that case, Neal shouldn't have any trouble.